Friday wraps up National School Counseling Week — an awareness of the critical role counselors play in students’ lives. But it’s also a chance to highlight the shortage of counselors here on the High Desert and statewide.
The COVID-19 pandemic sent many of us looking for counseling. The same is true for students in Oregon.
The U.S. Department of Education says the number of students across the country seeking mental health services through school went up 70% since the start of the pandemic.
That put a strain on school counselors. There simply aren’t enough of them.
The American School Counselor Association says, compared to other states, Oregon ranks no. 26 in the ratio of students per counselor. In Oregon, it’s 374 kids per counselor. The recommendation is 250-to-1.
“I really love that I’m able to support students on their journey throughout their educational career and kind of help them be prepared for life after high school,” said Jess Calbreath, Lead Counselor for the Bend-La Pine School District.
The Bend-La Pine ratio is 350-to-1.
Calbreath Says students suffering anxiety and depression definitely increased with the pandemic.
“I would say over 60% of our time when we’re meeting with individual students is spent in some sort of capacity supporting their social and emotional development, so that’s been a sort of a shift because we do have these other requirements in our role to serve students both academically and In college and career development,” Calbreath said.
Redmond School District’s ratio is about 300-to-1, according to Student Support Director Tami Nakamura. That’s actually a lot better than a decade ago, she says.
Right now, the focus is on helping kids transition back to the more social setting of campus.
“Now we’re face to face, no computers, phones. How do we be a good friend? How do we interact and socialize in a big school setting of 300 up to 1,000 students?” said Nakamura.
Both districts say there is help coming from OSU Cascades. It had 63 students in its fall term graduate counseling program and currently has about six student interns working in the Redmond School District.